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The importance, value, and power of one

From the January 2015 issue of The Christian Science Journal

A couple of years ago, a woman emailed a Christian Science practitioner saying she’d returned home from a few days away to find that a loved parakeet had somehow broken its leg. She had taken the bird to a veterinarian, but he had told her the tiny leg couldn’t be set.

In a phone conversation a day later, the practitioner learned that the woman had a number of parakeets, as well as several lovebirds and an adopted macaw. Clearly these dear birds were an important part of this woman’s life. While the two were on the phone, the practitioner asked the parakeet’s name, but the woman replied that with the exception of the adopted macaw (named by its previous family), none of her birds had names.  

Now, of course, a name is not in itself someone’s identity. One might, however, think of it as representing the importance and value of the distinct individuality bestowed by divine Love on each of its precious, deeply loved ideas. The practitioner read the caller this statement from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy: “Spirit names and blesses all. Without natures particularly defined, objects and subjects would be obscure, and creation would be full of nameless offspring,—wanderers from the parent Mind, strangers in a tangled wilderness” (p. 507).

In this instance, a long-held error was exposed in this woman’s thought concerning the meaning and value of individuality. In fact, she explained later that her belief had been that one just didn’t seem important—even seemed disposable, especially considering the vastness of infinity.

The woman was very humble, immediately understood the error she’d made, and spent the day studying and pondering spiritual individuality—the individualized manifestation of God, Spirit, forever inseparable from “the parent Mind.” By the end of that day, in response to her new understanding of the importance and preciousness of each individual idea, all of her birds had names—including Pearl, the white parakeet she had called about.

The next day, Pearl’s leg was intact, and by the third day was completely functional. But the deepest blessing of the experience was the complete shift in the woman’s understanding of individuality. 

The pure metaphysics underlying the importance, value, and power of one, is, for me, explained by Mrs. Eddy in Pulpit and Press: “Is not a man metaphysically and mathematically number one, a unit, and therefore whole number, governed and protected by his divine Principle, God? You have simply to preserve a scientific, positive sense of unity with your divine source, and daily demonstrate this. Then you will find that one is as important a factor as duodecillions in being and doing right, and thus demonstrating deific Principle. A dewdrop reflects the sun. Each of Christ’s little ones reflects the infinite One, and therefore is the seer’s declaration true, that ‘one on God’s side is a majority’ ” (p. 4).

Clearly, nothing exceeds the importance, value, and power of one.  

We are uniquely individual. Each of the countless ideas dwelling within infinite Mind is, like God Himself, unduplicated.

The Bible celebrates this point from beginning to end. The Psalmist writes of God: “He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names” (Psalms 147:4). In the book of Nehemiah, the third chapter is devoted entirely to identifying by name the specific individuals who worked on rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem in different capacities. And our dear Master, Christ Jesus, taught divine recognition and preservation of even the least individual being and object in creation when he declared: “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Luke 12:6, 7). 

It is thought-provoking to note that prior to the sweeping biblical recognition of the importance and value of a single individual, there is no historical evidence that mankind had any sense at all of this sacred truth. What might have caused human consciousness to awaken to it?

In Thomas Cahill’s thought-provoking book The Gifts of the Jews he explains that when the patriarch Abraham went forth from his “country” and his “father’s house” (see Genesis 12:1) in obedience to God’s command, he was departing a Sumerian culture of idol-worshippers—a culture, like other ancient civilizations, that through endless generations knew only a repetition of what had gone before; a static, generic society with no concept of forward movement or progression, and no perception of individual value, purpose, or destiny. For Abraham to trustingly break through this homogeny and go forth on an individual mission, not even knowing where he was going, was, according to Cahill, historically unique in the whole history of mankind up to that point (see pp. 3, 5, 19, 63, 94).

Now, Abraham was a monotheist. He had one absolute, all-inclusive God. Then, could it have been God’s revelation of His oneness to humanity, or monotheism—the truth of one indivisible infinite God with supreme power, instead of the supposed existence of many finite, humanistic gods with divided powers—that progressively awakened humanity to the importance, value, and power of one? 

Arguably, the most fundamental truth of God is His oneness. God tells us this Himself by giving humanity, as the first of the Ten Commandments, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). 

In Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, Mrs. Eddy states, “God is individual Mind” (p. 101). And since the spiritual creation is made in the exact likeness of this individual Mind, every identity in creation must be, first and foremost, individual. 

And not only are we individual, we are uniquely individual. Each of the countless ideas dwelling within infinite Mind is, like God Himself, unduplicated.  

The entire Bible illustrates unequivocally the immense authority and power of one. Individual men and women living in obedience to the one God, and demonstrating the unity with God that such obedience brings, have saved the lives of multitudes, delivered cities and nations, encouraged, strengthened, and blessed endless generations beyond their own, and completely changed the course of human history.

However, it is also well recorded that those who, through obedience to God, expressed their God-originated, God-glorifying individuality, provoked jealousy and hatred in others. This was the prophet Daniel’s experience (see Daniel 6). Deeply spiritually minded and obedient to God, “Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him.” He fearlessly, selflessly, refused to suppress that excellent spirit, though his specialness caused his enemies to conspire to destroy him. Steadfastly, Daniel refused to withdraw from his divine right to commune daily with the one God. Courageously, he refused to placate mortal mind by yielding to the sin of idolatry even for a mere 30 days, though it would have spared him the lions’ den. 

Daniel’s deliverance certainly proved that “one on God’s side is a majority,” and that preserving “a scientific, positive sense of unity with [our] divine source” unfolds the power that defends and saves us from evil. It also proved that hatred, jealousy, and despotism are not power, and aren’t to be feared or served. 

It was the immaculate Jesus who fully revealed man’s unbroken unity with his divine source, infinite Love—a unity as provably unbroken on earth as in heaven, a unity that enabled him to individualize divine power. And he gave us teachings that, as we obey them, enable us to do the same through the demonstration of our own spiritual identity as the sons and daughters of God.  

Jesus was the supreme example of the fact that “one on God’s side,” spiritually understood, “is a majority.” And it is precisely because the most potent enemy of evil is the individual man’s unity with God, that the carnal mind—which is “enmity against God” (Romans 8:7)—maliciously, craftily, attempts to extinguish from human consciousness the awareness of one individual’s importance, value, and power to accomplish good—and leads people to believe that they are individually unimportant, valueless, and powerless. 

How does it do this? 

It fabricates the subtlest of arguments that make it seem wrong to develop and express our individuality. For example, it argues 1) that unity, equality, inclusiveness, and peace among men are best achieved by suppressing diversity, uniqueness, and specialness; by hiding one’s light under a bushel and “blending in” so that others won’t feel “left out”; and 2) that it is a lack of humility—that it is pride and egotism—that motivates people to desire honest recognition of their talent and achievements. 

The first argument essentially suggests that homogenizing humanity will produce unity, equality, and peace. But unity and true brotherhood among individuals and nations is achieved only in proportion as mankind grows into the understanding of one Mind, one Father-Mother of all—and practices this understanding. We need to get below the surface of dissension and confront the real cause of it: belief in more than one mind, a belief that is identical with the ancient sin of idolatry. To take on the challenge of surrendering the fleshly mind with its willfulness, self-justification, and self-love is what enables us to unite with the one Mind.  

To promote equality and unity through homogeny is to oppose the seminal reality of spiritual being: individual Mind and its unique individual manifestation. We have to be so alert not to give our consent to suggestions that, on the surface, sound good—that sound kind, loving, caring, and inclusive—but are superficial, metaphysically incorrect, merely humanistic, and the very opposite of the healing Christ, Truth. Instead, they serve the would-be objective of the carnal mind to blot out its destroyer, the individual at-one with Love—and thereby delay both the annihilation of error and the progression of the spiritual idea. 

We don’t shine through phosphorescent self-illumination. We shine because God’s glory illumines each one of us as the sun illumines the moon—and as the same sun would illumine even a trillion moons were they to find themselves in our heavens.

Ironically, engaging in the suppression of individual specialness to achieve unity would reverse the steady development mankind has experienced in the thousands of years since Abraham’s unique journey out of the stagnant culture of the Sumerians. The attempt to stifle or destroy individual expression and thereby reverse humanity’s journey out of the forever-static illusion of mind in matter is animal magnetism. 

In her article “Ways that are Vain,” Mrs. Eddy explains, speaking of the effect of animal magnetism, or hypnotism: “The victims lose their individuality, and lend themselves as willing tools to carry out the designs of their worst enemies, even those who would induce their self-destruction” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 211). 

If we, through a lack of spiritual understanding and vigilance, allow ourselves to be robbed of our individuality for any reason, we become susceptible to personal influence, manipulation, and despotism—which, in turn, results in a growing inability to hear God, diminished inspiration, the erosion of our ability to think for ourselves, and the willingness to let others think for us. 

Animal magnetism, in its effort to destroy the authority and power of one, would argue to human consciousness the exact opposite of the truth of this power. With ultimate irony, it would try to convince us that one individual has immense power to do evil, while it argues at the same time that one individual has little power to do good! It argues discouragement, suggesting that one individual’s prayer concerning government, church, the economy, the weather, world tyranny and terrorism, the abuse of women, the treatment of animals—all issues, big or small—has little or no effect. Or even that some can effectively commune with God, while others are required to know God through intermediaries.

But there are no intermediaries. Nothing stands between Soul and its individual expression. Nothing stands between Love and its beloved object. And this sacred oneness is forever sustained by the Holy Ghost, Love’s law of relationship—our true link to our Maker. 

Then what about the argument that it is a lack of humility that motivates people to desire honest recognition of their achievements? 

The truth about humility is stated with brilliant simplicity in Jesus’ scientific statement, “I can of mine own self do nothing” (John 5:30). This declaration of the coexistence of God and man—in which man can do nothing through any personal capacity, but can do all things as the expression of the one Ego—silences forever the lie that humility demands the suppression of individuality. Humility demands only the suppression and destruction of an erroneous concept—a concept of self as personal, originating and functioning in matter. 

Because Principle and its idea is one, not two, it is the glory of God that is seen through His beautiful reflection, man. This is so evident in another saying of our Master’s, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). 

Isaiah declares, “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee” (Isaiah 60:1). We don’t shine through phosphorescent self-illumination. We shine because God’s glory illumines each one of us as the sun illumines the moon—and as the same sun would illumine even a trillion moons were they to find themselves in our heavens. 

The belief that humility requires the suppression of our light is an error that not only deprives the world of the depth and awe-inspiring beauty of individual expression, but also of original solutions to the world’s very demanding problems. The outcome of yielding to this error would be mediocrity in all fields of endeavor and a widespread loss of self-respect and initiative. We are not equally mediocre as the offspring of Love! We are equally exceptional, each one reflecting divine glory in a unique way. 

It goes without saying, however, that this heavenly fact of our God-given equality and brilliance isn’t apparent to the material senses and must be practically demonstrated, worked out individually, in our human experience. And each of us has the opportunity and divine right to take up the cross, put off the illusion of material personality, and emerge from its darkness, mediocrity, and stagnation into the light of our spiritual individuality and destiny. Patiently, persistently, vigilantly, we need to maintain a conscious sense of our unity with God. Through the spiritualization of thought, and the daily practice of the love that this spiritualization reveals in us, our unique spiritual selfhood as the reflection of “the infinite One” becomes more and more apparent. 

The challenge inherent in this undertaking, and the glorious promise it holds, seem to me to be presented in these words of Mrs. Eddy’s: “To live so as to keep human consciousness in constant relation with the divine, the spiritual, and the eternal, is to individualize infinite power; and this is Christian Science” (Miscellany, p. 160).

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